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Catch-up or cop out? Exploring the £1.4bn funding announcement

The government has announced the next phase of it’s Covid catch-up plans, with £1.4billion more funding for overcoming learning loss. The funding will be split between £1billion for tutoring, and £400m for additional teacher training. The latter covers existing planned work on the Early Career Framework, early years programmes and more NPQs.

Reports in the media suggest this is just the first step before a spending review in the Autumn, although the cash falls short of the £15 billion originally touted. It also doesn’t include further information on extending the school day, summer schools or more targeted intervention. Sir Kevan Collins’ plan had already been leaked, but apparently was rejected by the treasury.  

The Education Policy Institute has argued that the new money equates to just £50 per pupil per year. 

Will this help the most disadvantaged learners catch-up?

Teachers, unions and other sector bodies have rightly come out to criticise this monumental cop-out. Even if more funding is promised in future, kicking the can down the road is hardly the right message to send to beleaguered teachers and schools.  

What we actually need is for additional funding to be targeted at groups and communities who need it most. The most deprived areas, many of them in the North of England, need much more than tutoring programmes to alleviate the grinding effects of poverty.  

For those with the lowest levels of achievement, young people with SEND, the focus has to be on supporting and enabling high quality teaching backed by effective interventions, delivered by specialists. This type of support, when aligned to the curriculum, can provide impact that is meaningful, sequenced and in line with a child’s starting points. 

Providing tutoring may feel like a reasonable catch-up solution. It can certainly be part of the picture, but the lessons of a blanket approach to system-level problems have not been learnt. Localised and targeted approaches are always preferable when resources are tight, as weve seen time again during the pandemic.  

The government should:

  • Continue its focus on improving skills for all teachers, not just those who are new to the profession, up to and including more specialist professional pathways 
  • Provide funding directly to schools to ensure they have the right people and resources they need to address local issues; particularly where local provision is weak or over-stretched 
  • Incentivise schools and other organisations so that a focus on wider subjects and activities are not lost; particularly where they support the development of social, language and literacy skills
  • If tutoring is part of a school’s response to lost learning this should be directed to pupils with the greatest need, namely those young people with SEND.

Chris Rossiter

Chief Executive, DYT

Chris originally trained as an applied psychologist and has worked across the private, public and charitable sector for over 15 years. Has has particular expertise in special educational needs and disability, and organisational psychology. He is a primary Chair of Governors, Trustee of the Astrea Academy Trust, member of the literacy sub-committee of the Hastings Opportunity Area and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

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